Doing good during a week of giving thanks

Last year was a tough one for us. Really tough. 2009 was The Year that Every Job Opportunity Imploded.

(Seriously, I think that’s on the Chinese astrology charts sandwiched between the Year of the Rat and the Year of the Guy Holding Up His Middle Finger at You While He Quietly Cleans Out Your Bank Account.)

I have never in my life experienced a year quite like that–freelance accounts would pull jobs the night before the start date. Three month bookings turned into 2-day bookings. Small companies asked if they could put off paying me for oh, say six months? And then right in the middle of it all, our car would get a flat. Or our cats would require six zillion dollars worth of antibiotics.

Any one of those situations might have been manageable, but together, back-to-back, for a straight year? It was, frankly, not fun at all.

We made a whole lot of sacrifices, rethought priorities, relied on the kindness of family (and really cute hand-me-downs), and we muddled through it. We even somehow managed to get Nate through culinary school, courtesy delayed student loan payments.

The one thing I most regret cutting back on last year was charity. And fancy cheeses. But mostly charity.

Not that we didn’t give a few dollars here and there, or support a friend’s walkathon, pull some resources together for Haiti, or donate toys to Goodwill. But I wasn’t quite sending copious monthly checks throughout the year. Turns out–surprise!–I wasn’t the only one. Charities have been hit hard in the last couple of years, with giving down in 20009 for the first time in 12 years.

As we come up on the end of 2010, I feel incredibly blessed to be in a position where I can start to think about these things again. So when I learned about, I was like, hey! Over here! I’m your gal!

I don’t write about charity stuff here a lot because when I do, I get six hundred million emails from charities asking me to write about them too and I can’t pick between them and I feel guilty and…yeah. That’.

But this is a good one. Because it benefits all charities.

Basically you create your own “foundation” – just add your pet non-profits in, and then they’ll give you a $5 donation to start. You can add money in there each month to save up for a big donation, or you can earn more money by shopping at more than 400 stores which will donate from about 2 to 15% of your purchase price right into your foundation.

New Wii from Target? 4% to your charities. Big splurgey gift for the kids at FAO Schwartz? 2% to your charities.  Sending the mother-in-law a bouquet from 1-800-FLOWERS  on Thanksgiving? 10% to your charties.

Here’s a dandy video to show you just how GiveBack works

Oh and this is not a sponsored post you cynical so-and-so’s (although they did kindly make a charitable donation on my behalf).  I just think it’s wildly cool and inventive and it makes it easy for me to get back to the giving that makes me feel whole

My own dot-orgs that are near and dear to my heart right now: The White Ribbon Alliance For Safe Motherhood(you can read here about how I discovered them, while also discovering that supermodels do not get my sense of humor), Feeding America, the Nature Conservancy, and I’m working on getting our school PTA in there.

I’m so happy to be writing about this, the very week that we’re all spending a lot of time thinking about what we’re thankful for.

I also love hearing about what causes other people feel deeply about. What are yours?


21 thoughts on “Doing good during a week of giving thanks”

  1. I'm big on any charity that gives a hand UP not a hand OUT. Heifer and Kiva are my two faves. If you haven't seen Kiva, I suggest you check it out!rana

  2. Our cause is definitely animal related. We always try to give to local animal shelter being a firm believer in “Think globally, act locally”.

    Another website doing something very similar to giveback is Igive… that's the one I've personally been using.

  3. for me, it's mostly animals and the environment: the nature conservancy, HAHS (hooved animal humane society in woodstock IL), happy trails (farm animal rescue society in rural ohio), audobon, wild ARC (wild animal rescue in coastal north carolina).

    um. and the paralyzed veterns, because i really like their little speeding wheelchair guy logo. (what can i say? i am not deep.)

    i also give blood on a regular basis, and volunteer at the rescue organizations and habitat for humanity.

    neat question – i'm interested as well.

  4. An organization I wish everybody knew about: First Book, which provides books to underprivileged kids. Something like 80% of low income preschool and afterschool programs have NO books…which totally breaks my book-loving heart.


    I also love to support Heather Spohr's Friends of Maddie, which supports NICU families.

    And finally, the Earth Conservation Corps, which matches inner city kids with environmental projects, reclaiming both in the process.

  5. I feel strongly about giving to charity for sick kids, especially now that I have a child of my own and I simply can't imagine what it would be like to have a sick baby or child. I usually give to St. Jude's Research Hospital.

    Also our military – troops who are away from their homes and families to protect us and our freedom. We've done care packages at the holidays.

    I'll have to check out GiveBack – thanks!

  6. I've got a local organization that we've supported every year – Family Tree and their House of Hope. We've made it an annual tradition to bring supplies and gifts.

    The drive to the House of Hope gives us an opportunity to talk about the challenges that other families face (and that we hope we'll never have to face ourselves), and visiting the house itself introduces my kids to the people we're helping, right here in the city where we live.

    And while I'm plugging for Denver charities, the Dumb Friends League is offering $100 off adoptions. Seriously. That means it's basically free to adopt a cat, and only $15 to adopt a kitten.

  7. I give time and money to some of our local schools where the kids have no shoes, food, or visible fathers.
    I also have paid for a couple folks to go to Africa to help start gardens or wells for the impoverished there.

  8. We just give a large donation to the United Way. I was lucky enough to be on the board and i could see the local charities they dealt with first hand. Everything from early education of kids to English as a Second language to preventative health for pregnant teens. It's difficult to draw the line sometimes so you gotta do the best you can.

  9. Thanks – this is interesting and new to me. I'll check it out – not just for me, but for the few charities that I am personally involved with (my office for one!).

  10. I don't have a huge amount of income, but the charities I regularly give to are the ones I've taken the most advantage of in my day to day (or years ago when I had next to NO income.)They are NPR, Planned Parenthood and my local humane society. They have all given me FREE access to what they have to offer when I needed it the most.

  11. Last year was a tough one for us too, and when we finally sold our house and gave a huge donation to our education foundation for our district…last year I could hardly give any to our school. I've said yes to a few more things this year, like team in training type requests. Donorschoose and Kiva and Novica which supports small artisans look great. And the 2nd Harvest Foodbank.

  12. Well, I got laid off a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say- as much as I miss the cleaning service (and I really, really miss the cleaning service), the thing that is breaking my heart the most is that we won't be able to adopt a family with my favorite local charity (Home Start, for anyone in San Diego- they work with struggling families to try to make life a little easier and to prevent child abuse). I've had to scale back to just a small donation to the program.

    Most years, we pick four or five charities and write biggish checks to them. In addition to Home Start, our usuals are: our food bank, UNICEF, a local charity that works with homeless people, and HALO Trust, because we were struck by the devastation landmines had caused when we visited Cambodia.

    Home Start also gets my retired baby stuff- they'll take strollers and car seats! Also, diapers in the sizes we've grown out of.

    I don't do much donating of food stuffs directly to the food bank, because I read that money is more valuable to them- they can get bulk deals. But a real estate agent in our neighborhood runs a food drive every year, and I always put out a bag. I use it as a way to rotate through our canned goods that we keep on hand for emergencies. They cans are far from expired when I donate them, but if I didn't rotate through, they'd probably be expired if I ever needed them!

  13. Except for a few gifts that my kids were given that they don't know about and wouldn't play with and a few things I picked up at BlogHer (big ass thing of Play-Doh), I won't be giving this holiday season. I this year have to be thankful enough that I can do a bit for my kids. Divorce is expensive. Sigh.

    Anyway…generally though, I give to Toys for Tots and I let my kids each pick a name off of the Family Tree that Julie linked too. Also Denver has a big winter coat drive every year, that I give my kids previous years coats too.

  14. I used to do the big charities like “March of Dimes” and such.

    Now that we live in a smaller city, it is easier to see the needs up close.

    Husband and I try to serve monthly in our local community suppers. Doing dishes, whatever is needed.

    And it's sad, because there is such a great need, even in our tiny part of the world.

  15. My parents have always been really big on giving back to animal shelters in the local community, bit givers in general, but especially to the animal shelter. I will send them a link to your blog, I am sure then will find interest in it. Thank you for sharing.

  16. I really like Local Foods Connection, because it covers many things that are important to me such as fresh foods, sustainable living, education for those in poverty, and supporting local farmers.

    I also spend a lot of money giving to organizations that are trying to preserve the natural world in some way. I'm a very large proponent of parks and wild spaces.

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